VATICAN CITY, Feb. 16 (AP) - The archbishop of Caracas, one of 44 churchmen that Pope John Paul II will make a cardinal next week, raised the possibility on Friday that a Latin American could be the next pontiff.

``I think it's likely,'' Monsignor Ignacio Antonio Velasco Garcia, said in an interview with Associated Press Television News. ``But it's just a guess, because in a conclave many things happen.''

``So we never know, but it could also be a Latin American cardinal,'' the prelate said. ``There certainly will be some votes,'' Velasco Garcia added, raising his hand to indicate he could be among those voting for a Latin American.

A dozen of those to be made cardinals in a ceremony at the Vatican Wednesday are from Latin America, whose Catholics make up about 40 percent of the church's 1 billion faithful around the world.

With the latest nominations, the pope will have named nearly all of the cardinals under age 80 and thus eligible to elect his successor in the secret voting sessions known as a conclave.

Of the ailing, 80-year-old John Paul, Velasco Garcia said: ``May God keep him for many more years.''

The 72-year-old Venezuelan was one of the first churchman to arrive in Rome for the consistory ceremony, which will be followed by several days of receptions for admirers, family and friends as well as a Mass and an audience with John Paul.

Velasco Garcia said he was surprised by his nomination, which he said was a way for John Paul to ``pay tribute'' to the Venezuelan people.

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad